According to last weekend’s Sunday Times Peter Gabriel is providing the financing for We7 – a new music download site where tracks are free but come with 10 seconds of ads in them, although the ads disappear after four weeks. Apparently you can also share tracks with friends and family.
Good idea – as they point out on their site, it is legal, free, and the artist gets paid. Can’t be bad, and at the end of the day if artists don’t get paid, then pretty soon there will be no music 🙁 (although as I have said before musicians can make money from gigs and merchandise, as well as by selling music).
What I really like about this is that it gives more choice to consumers. There is now a choice of paid for legal downloads with DRM, some paid for legal downloads without DRM (sometimes at a higher price), free legal downloads with ads and illegal downloads. Not to mention subscription models like Rhapsody and Last.fm.
Now we can see what will stick. This is the market in action. Up to now we have have voted overwhelmingly for free illegal downloads with all the risks and hassle they entail. History tells us that people will always go for the free pirate option unless it is too much effort for the money they will save. By making filesharing much easier the internet shifted the balance massively in favour of illegal copying – it will be interesting to see if We7‘s free downloads are enough to shift the balance back.
This dynamic is also starting to play out in the TV world – a friend told me last week that he was downloading shows from BitTorrent because he couldn’t get them on Virgin Media post their little bust up with Sky and because the downloads from 4OD were poor quality (for those outside the UK 4OD is the on demand offering from one of our five free to air terrestrial TV channels). Unbelievable. I would lend them my gun to Virgin and Channel 4 these shoot themselves in the other foot, but I think they have taken both out already. And the irony for Sky is that if denying Virgin customers access to its channels is causing them to download shows from the internet then Sky will be the loser too.